Fudpuckers Again

Last year the gang went to Fudpuckers while I stayed home to let Katie get a good nap. This year, we both went along.


They are known for the alligators…and I have to be honest and say they just creep me the hell out. /shudder


Beth and I decided to split this 40 oz margarita-ish drink.


And made mom try it, too. :)





Feeding the alligators.






Being a ham.




Attempting to get a cousin pic…and failing. :)


More creeptastic alligators.



Owen by his name that he wrote there last year.



Then this happened on the drive home.


Exploding volcanos!

This was a Christmas present from Aunt Beth and Uncle Jim and today we finally decided to do it. Owen was SUPER excited: “This is going to be AMAZING!”


Reading the instructions. We should have done this part before getting Owen involved. :)



As you can see, the “test” explosion wasn’t very crazy and the goggles really aren’t warranted. :)





The compilation video:

The very last gifts!

There was unmatching wrapping paper under the tree so the kids were curious… Thank you Aunt Beth and Uncle Jim! Both were a huge hit! As Owen was opening his he saw it was a Magic School Bus item right away and commented that “MAGIC SCHOOL BUS IS SOOOO AWESOME!” Tom and I were both like Huh? What? How does he know what that is? (We still don’t know.)






Kentucky Vacation

We just got back from a week’s vacation in Kentucky. Why Kentucky, you might be asking? Well, that was a fairly central mid-point for all of the Schwalmlettes & Schmitlettes (the nickname for the Schwalm kids and me) to drive and meet for a family reunion!

It was really nice, since we never all get to see each other at Christmas like we used to (see what having kids does?). :) However, it wasn’t QUITE like old times—there wasn’t much staying up until 3am playing games and drinking and talking like in the old days…since there are kids to deal with now. (I might hazard a guess that I had the worst of it, since I still have to get up with the boy for night feedings, which meant I was usually in bed by 10 each night.) But we still all had fun visiting and relaxing and playing Wii games (and more to the point, watching the kids play Wii games) and watching the kids’ production of Three Little Pigs and Annie!

Owen was the absolute HIT of the week for the kids. They just about loved him to pieces! They always wanted to be in his face playing with him or kissing him or hugging him or touching him or helping feed him. I am sure he was overwhelmed, but it was very cute! Here’s what it looked like a lot of the time:

We also learned that Owen does NOT like a lot of noise and commotion. We had him in the room with us when the kids were singing or boxing on the Wii (both LOUD and CRAZY) and he was NOT a happy camper. As soon as we took him out of the room, he quieted down and was happy again. A kid after my own heart! :yes:

There was a hot tub (which I had been really excited about), but the weather was so warm that I never went in. It pretty much just got used by the kids (that is, after Kath turned it town to like 80° so it was more pool-like) who really enjoyed it!

We were out of cell service range, but the house did have internet so all us geeks didn’t have to go through withdrawal. I think we had three laptops and four iPhones—sometimes all going at once!

One day we all went to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and managed to get this family photo:

Of course, it was over WAY too soon…and before you know it, we were packing and on the road home. At least we discovered we have a pretty good little traveler—Owen slept most of the way and we only had to feed him once during the 8-hour trip (although we had to feed him the moment we got to our destination, both ways!).

Stay tuned for a link to the entire set of pictures!

2001 USMC Birthday Ball

Our very first USMC Birthday Ball was held in Richmond. It was quite the experience seeing probably 1,000 marines in dress blues!! Little did we know at the time (I am posting pictures and writing this entry 11 years later) this was the biggest ball we’d ever go to—it was held on two or three stories of the hotel! If you weren’t in the main room (which we weren’t) you got to view the entire ceremony on a huge video monitor. I don’t remember dancing, but Tom said we did dance to one or two songs… Afterwards we went to stay the night with Jim and Beth.

Lt. & Mrs. Thomas & Jennifer Hudson

You can find all of the wedding pictures at Shutterfly — why duplicate the effort here?

The short story…

THOMAS AND JENNIFER TIED THE KNOT on an absolutely gorgeous Saturday morning in the Northern Michigan town where they met. The ceremony went off without a hitch (okay, maybe one—but you’ll have to read further to see what it was) and everyone loved the couple’s personalized vows. Then the couple and their guests enjoyed a three-hour gourmet lunch reception aboard the local Grand Traverse Dinner Train. The couple left the reception on a horse-drawn carriage.

The long story…

August 18, 2001
Grand Traverse Children’s Gardens
Traverse City, Michigan


The girls arrived at the library at 10:15…in plenty of time for the wedding (10:30!), but much later than anticipated. (We originally planned to get dressed at the library, but it just didn’t happen.) I had also totally forgotten that we had lots of wedding stuff in the van that had really needed to be at the site earlier (the CD player and prelude music, the guest-signing picture frame/matte, and the programs) so that stressed me out even more, although I do have to give my attendants (and brother!) credit for getting things taken care of. A stream of people came in to see me, and while it was nice, my mind was elsewhere—I was still very nervous and hoping that everything went okay. I was elated to see that after all my worrying and back-and-forth with the florist, my flowers were absolutely gorgeous (sidenote: they were MUCH heavier than I anticipated). Then before I knew it, it was time! (I also learned that the guys had arrived at the library much earlier, and were actually starting to get worried because we weren’t there yet!)


I had to wait with my dad around the corner while the mothers were seated, because Tom was doing it and he couldn’t take the chance of seeing me. My dad started to say something that sounded sentimental and I bluntly told him to be quiet. Then he started again and I “shhh”ed him again. This went on for a good minute. I kept telling him he couldn’t say anything that would make me cry since that would ruin my makeup and give me red eyes!! He ended up getting out one sentence which wasn’t TOO bad! Then we got our cue, so as we walked toward the garden, I looked over and saw Tom standing there in his uniform. WOW!!!!! He looked absolutely amazing! So we stopped at the back of the garden and waited for the trumpeter to start. It was VERY surreal looking around and seeing everyone who was there, all looking at me—and Tom waiting for me! Then the trumpeter started and we walked up the aisle.

I alternated between looking at all the guests, looking up at Tom, and looking at the ground (for dips and bumps) to make sure I didn’t trip and fall. The aisle wasn’t very long, so that part was over quickly. Tom came down to us, my dad handed me off to Tom and shook his hand, then I gave him a kiss and Tom and I walked up to our places. Julie welcomed everyone and started the ceremony. This was the weirdest part, because we were both just standing there looking at everyone. I wanted to at least hold hands (wondering if brides and grooms normally did that—I couldn’t remember!) but I had my bouquet and he was being Mr. Strict Military Man (as he was technically supposed to be) with his arms at his sides, his hands in little fists. This part seemed to go on FOREVER. However, it was neat to have time to be able to see everyone who was there!


Clicking any of the four wedding program thumbnails below will popup a full-size version.


Various Classical Selections


Variations on a Theme by Paganini (Rachmaninoff)

Seating of the mothers (Grandma, Marsha, Linda, Jean) by Tom

That’s How You Know It’s Love (Deana Carter)

Groom’s Attendants (Kate, Don, Morgan)

Best Man (Rob)

Groom (Tom)

Bride’s Attendants (Marie, Kathryn, Beth)

Maid of Honor (Angi)

Flower Girl (Jessica)

Trumpet Voluntary (Clarke)

Bride & Father (Jen and Mike)


Who presents this bride for marriage? Her parents. (Dad hands Jen off to Tom. Tom shakes Dad’s hand. Jen kisses Dad on cheek. Jen and Tom walk together to front and face the guests.)


Good morning. I’m Reverend Julie Chai and I have the honor of officiating this marriage ceremony which Jennifer, Tom, and I have co-created. On behalf of Tom and Jennifer, I would like to welcome all of you to this ceremony celebrating the love they have for each other. We would also like to welcome those who have passed on and are celebrating with us in spirit today—especially Tom’s father, Robert.

We would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the parents of the couple. Would the parents please stand? On your left is Tom’s mother, Marsha, and Jennifer’s mother Jean and stepfather David. On your right, her father Michael and stepmother Linda.


As the parents of Thomas and Jennifer, do you affirm your continuing support and love to them as they grow in their marriage? Yes.

Do you celebrate with them in their decision to choose each other? Yes.

Do you offer them the best of your care and counsel in times of struggle, and will you celebrate with them in times of joy? Yes.


As the much loved friends and family of the couple, you are very important to them and your role in their marriage is a very important one as well. Today you will be witnesses to the vows they will be making uniting them as a couple. As witnesses, they ask that during times of stress, you offer them a quiet listening ear, advice when requested, and encouragement to uphold their vows, honoring the love they have found in each other. It is our hope that as we celebrate the love of Jennifer and Tom here today, that you will also cherish and hold more dear your own loving relationships. And as they take their vows, that you, too, will find renewed commitment in the relationships you have made in the sacredness of your own lives.


I asked Tom and Jennifer why they want to get married and what is drawing them to each other. Tom noted that he was first attracted to Jennifer’s eyes and smile. He said, “I love her personality and sense of humor. We are so much alike that it’s comforting. She’s easy to be around.” To this Jennifer quickly added, “It feels like we’ve been together forever.” Tom agreed, noting that they often know what each other is thinking and he said, “Jennifer is my best friend and I couldn’t think of being with anyone else.”

Jennifer remembered the first time they met, saying, “When we saw each other across the smoky bar and met [big laugh from the guests!], we knew that night we would get married.” She said that she loves the fact that Tom loves her unconditionally, no matter what. And she appreciates how easygoing Tom is and how he gets along with everyone in her family. Finally, she noted, “Tom does his best to make me happy, including the cute little animal noises I love.” [Everyone laughed. Then, still laughing, Julie asked if anyone had ever heard these noises—because she kept hearing about them but had never actually heard them. Everyone laughed again.]


And now Jennifer’s Aunt Marge will offer some thoughts on love:

Love is caring as much about the welfare and happiness of your spouse as about your own. It makes burdens lighter because you divide them and joys more intense because you share them. Love is a promise that is always kept, a fortune that can never be spent, and love is a seed that can flourish even in the most unlikely places.

And now Jennifer’s brother-in-law, Jim Coe, will read an excerpt from The Art of Marriage:

A good marriage must be created. Remember that it is the little things that are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands…remembering to say I love you at least once a day…never going to bed angry…and at no time taking the other for granted. In a good marriage you have a mutual sense of values and common objectives. And you stand together facing the world. In a good marriage you do things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. You speak words of gratitude and demonstrate it in thoughtful ways. In a good marriage, the husband is not expected to wear a halo, or the wife the wings of an angel. You do not look for perfection in the other, but cultivate flexibility, patience, understanding, and a sense of humor. You forgive and forget. A good marriage is not only about marrying the right partner, but being the right partner.


As a symbol of their unity, Jennifer and Tom have chosen a bell. During times of conflict and pain they will ring this bell. In ringing the bell, they will be reminded of the love that unites them and surrounds them here today. The ringing of the bell by the couple.


[Note: At this point, we finally get to turn towards each other.]

Jennifer, hold Tom’s hands, palm up.

Jennifer, these are the hands of your best friend—young, strong, and vibrant as he promises to love you all the days of his life.

These hands will work alongside yours as you build your future together, laugh and cry, and share your innermost secrets and dreams.

Though large and strong, these are the hands that will be so gentle as he holds your baby for the first time.

These are the hands that will work long hours for you and your new family.

And these hands will love and cherish you throughout the years in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy.

Jennifer, bless these hands you hold before you this day.

Thomas, hold Jennifer’s hands, palm up.

Tom, these are the hands of your best friend—smooth, young, and carefree as she promises to love you all the days of her life.

These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times.

These hands will hold you with joy and excitement and hope each time she tells you that you are to have another child, that together you have created a new life.

These hands will console and comfort you.

And these hands will love and cherish you throughout the years in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy.

Tom, bless these hands you hold before you this day.

Please join in the unison prayer for the blessing of the vows by repeating after me:

Jennifer and Tom, we your friends and family celebrate your love and with our love bless the vows you are about to make. Receive the patience, courage, wisdom, and humor you need to grow together, and fulfilling your vows now and forever.


Jennifer’s vows:

Thomas, I love you.

  • I promise to affirm my love for you by giving you a quick wink and a smile to let you know everything is okay.
  • I promise to hold you and comfort you to make you feel safe.
  • I promise to try to appreciate the good in everything.
  • I promise I will give you time to work things out when you feel overwhelmed.
  • I promise to do my best to accept the time it takes you to analyze and make a purchase.
  • I promise to accept your quirkiness and unique sense of humor.
  • I’ll do my best to understand your need to have the TV on all the time.
  • I promise to do my best to understand and accept your future military responsibilities and not make you feel guilty about having to put studying first.
  • I’ll do my best to try not to watch QVC as much.
  • I promise to never put another sugarprincess sticker on my car, just in case you ever have to drive it.
  • I look forward to making our relationship even stronger and spending the rest of my life with you.
  • Thomas, I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows—and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.

Thomas’ Vows:

Jennifer, I love you.

  • I promise to be faithful, trustworthy, and honest with you.
  • I promise to listen to you and only fix the things you ask me to.
  • I’ll do my best to communicate more, even when the topic might be uncomfortable for me.
  • I’ll do my best to compromise, even with my TV habits, such as endless channel flipping.
  • I’ll do my best to support your decisions, even if I might not agree with them.
  • I promise not to become addicted to any more computer games.
  • And I look forward to making our relationship even stronger and spending the rest of my life with you.
  • Jennifer, I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows—and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.


Please join me in pronouncing the couple husband and wife:

Tom and Jennifer, we now pronounce you husband and wife.



Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other.

Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.

Now you will feel no loneliness, for each of you will be companionship for the other.

Now you are two persons, but there is only one life between you.

Go now to your dwelling place, to enter into the days of your life together.


Please join in the Unison Blessing of the Couple by repeating after me:

Jennifer and Tom, may your lives be blessed with health, love, and happiness, and may your home be filled with laughter now and forever.


As you have blessed, so may you also be blessed. And may your lives also be filled with health, love, and happiness—and may your homes be filled with laughter now and forever.


Friends, it is my honor and pleasure to introduce to you Lieutenant and Mrs. Thomas and Jennifer Hudson.


These Are Days (10,000 Maniacs)



After the recessional, we came back and greeted the guests at their rows and everyone said they loved the ceremony—and some people even asked for copies of it and suggested I post it online. It took awhile to get the pictures started (especially getting the extended families together for each family picture), but once they did, they went pretty well. By this time, too, it was quite warm (although not terribly hot and humid) so I was really warm with all the layers of the dress. I really needed a fresh application of powder to take away the shine I had developed, but I had forgotten to prepare a little makeup bag, and at that point, I had NO idea where my makeup bag was. So, I was more than a little anxious about what I would look like in pictures (as it turned out, some are great and some are way too shiny!).

Bridal Party


We made it to the train with a few minutes to spare before the 1pm departure. I made sure to tell Chandra (the photographer) to get on the train first, so she could get a picture of Tom’s reaction when he saw the personalized cake topper. So we got on the train and the server announced us and everyone clapped and it was really neat—and I almost missed Tom’s reaction to the topper because in the few minutes since I had talked to the photographer, I had forgotten about it! I actually looked down and saw the photographer and wondered what she was doing down there…and then remembered just as she was snapping the picture! He was SO surprised! He just looked at me, laughed and smiled, and said, “You stinker—you told me you weren’t doing this!” I asked if he liked it and he said he did! Then we just sat down, relaxed for a bit (and gave my feet a chance to rest—I had kicked off my shoes as soon as we sat down), and drank a lot of water! Once the train got moving, we got up and started visiting with all of the tables. Everyone LOVED everything—especially the CDs. (I was worried about having lots of extras—since I made one for everyone—and the only leftovers were for the people who didn’t show.)


The carriage ride was very cool. We got a few honks as we rode along the main road (on our way to the side streets) and Tom even got a few salutes! Most of our ride was along the side streets, past all of these old Victorian houses. It was a nice, relaxing way to end the hectic day. One bizarre thing happened, though. As we’re clip-clopping down this one street, I see this woman step out onto her porch holding a baby—and it was my hairdresser who had done all our hair that morning (and who had been doing my hair for the past six months)!! She was like, “Jen!!!!” and I was like, “Hey Heidi!!!!” I had no idea where she lived, and we just happened to go by her house. Strange.